Text to accompany the radio show “Rapprochez-vous du poste” hosted by Anne Montaron, broadcast the 4th of June 2012.
Hampus Lindwall and Anne Montaron
After the recorded concert in Saint-Esprit the 2nd of May 2012, I got a lot of questions from people who wondered how some of the improvisations were made. So, to accompany the radio transmission on July 4th I wrote this blog. You are welcome to post comments, discuss or ask questions if you like.
To begin with, I would like to say a word about the choice of the instrument, which is the charming little organ in the church of Saint-Esprit (Paris 12e) that was built in 1933 by Gloton-Debierre. It’s a small organ with 15 stops on 2 manuals and pedals, and cannot compete with a larger and more inspiring instrument with more possibilities and variation. Nevertheless, this instrument have some great qualities. First of all I know it by heart, since I improvise on it every weekend. And by doing this, I have learned how to make it sound bigger by “cheeting” with registrations. But most important point is that I wanted to use electronics together with the organ, and the hugeness of the church of Saint-Esprit and it’s great acoustics really make this work fabulously. I work in duo with composer Jesper Nordin since several years, me on the organ, and he on his computer, recording, modulating and processing the sounds that I play in real time. This time we couldn’t get our agendas together so I had to do this on my own…
The organ, iPad displaying the program SoundYeah, and the iMix Rig
To make it sound “street” I decided to make things simple. You can make all kinds of impressive stuff if you have access to a real electronic studio, but I wanted to see what I could do with machines that anyone could afford. I watched videos on YouTube to see what people used in electronic music, experimenting DJs, techno etc. and I got inspiration to use my iPad and iPhone. So, a microphone in front of the organ to capture the sound of the Principal 8’, a small mixer called iRig Mix and a amplifier and two small loudspeakers. That’s it.
Then I asked some of my composer friends to give me the themes, to be sure to avoid any cliché of organ improvisation. Esthetically, I’m very inspired by the research done by people around me, artists from all different fields like painting, sculpture, internet art, performance, installations, experimental cinema, poetry, rock, pop, electronic music etc. In other words, everywhere where I can find invention. For me, contemporary art must be a reflection of its time, or better, be ahead of its time! I’m very lucky to be surrounded by some fabulous artists who work in this direction.
The first theme is a structure conceived by Mauro Lanza. Four different sounds are to be juxtaposed within a formal scheme. In the beginning the elements appear quite sporadically. They come closer and closer to make a crescendo of intensity, and are then spread out again towards the end. The iPad is used like an electronic whoopee cushion.
Vague formal sketch for the improvisation on a theme by Mauro Lanza
The second improvisation didn’t come out of a theme, but from a program for iPad called Mugician. The programmer wanted to make like a neck of a 7 stringed electric bass out of the iPad. You can then play it without frets to make glissandos. I found that very interesting to have a sound similar to the organ and then gliss between the notes. Nothing really new actually, similar things were made a long time ago by Ligeti for example, but I found the effect interesting enough to try this “Aventure”… I play with my left hand at the organ and my right hand of the iPad. Towards the end I play like random chords on the iPad, which sounds like non-tuned mixtures.
Mugician for iPad
During the concert. Photo by Lorenzo Pagliei.
Third piece is from an instruction be Lorenzo Pagliei. I could think of no better way than to publish it here.
Theme by Lorenzo Pagliei, double-click to see it bigger.
Then comes an improvisation on a text by Franz Kafka that Anne Montaron brought me. Here I use a program for the electric guitar and I play the organ thru it. There is no sample or prerecorded sounds in it, just the Principal 8’ thru the distortion. I think of the piece “Vampyr!” for electric guitar by Tristan Murail, that is called so because he “vampirized” guitarists like Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton by stealing ideas from then. For someone knowing about rock from the 70’s it’s easy to hear which guitarists blood I drank…
“I was stiff and cold, I was a bridge, I crossed an abyss” F. Kafka
Nosferhampus, the vampire in white…
When I first found the program called SoundYeah I loved the idea to make loops to play over and with. Sometimes you have to know to kill your darlings. The idea is great, but I’m not sure about the result.
Using the same program SoundYeah, Francesco Filidei suggested that I explore it repeated notes or trills. When I tried this out the trills worked best. Everything is made in real time. I play a trill that I record, play another and record it, repeat the procedure until I have a few, then I put them on repeat and change speed to achieve different pitches and intensities.
Rehearsal at the organ, with Lorenzo Pagliei and Cindy Castillo
The last theme I received was kind of an experience. Jesper Nordin had told me that he had prepared a video with instructions for me on YouTube. I was not allowed to see it before playing, I should improvise directly on his “instructions”. When I finally get the video before me I discover that it is a battle scene from “Fist of Fury” to improvise on. This was as an echo to the organ piece with the same name that Jesper wrote for me in 2011.
Improvising before Bruce Lee. Photo by Lorenzo Pagliei
Thanks to Magnus Lorentzson for the photos